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The Madonnas of Echo Park

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3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,328 ratings  ·  386 reviews
We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.

With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.

When a dozen or so gi
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Hardcover, 199 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Free Press
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've been accompanying major home cleaning projects with audiobooks so my dogs and I both listened to this one, a novel of connected stories from different points of view, most of them from the traditionally Mexican neighborhood of Echo Park, displaced by Dodger Stadium and surrounding gentrification. Strong voice, great in audio, a few racist terms that are uncomfortable but probably accurate for the characters using them.

“There is no elegy for those who have been dispossessed of their anger.”
(
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Madeline Knight-Dixon
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that is constantly making you think, and constantly realize how ignorant Americans are. It’s about Echo Park, a Latino neighborhood in LA that is predominately Mexican. One of the chapters focuses on illegal workers, how terribly their treated and how much they are looked down upon even from people in their own community. The novel constantly struggles with are you a Mexican-American, or an American-Mexican.

At its core, the book is about identity. Can you escape your c
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Leonard
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Madonnas of Echo Park tells the stories of Mexicans who struggle through their daily lives in Echo Park, a section of Los Angeles. The book starts with "We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours," and ends with "This is the land that we dream of, the land that belongs to us again." A summary of the characters' attitudes toward the land they love and struggle to claim as their home.

Echo Park
Echo Park (Photo by User2004 at Wikimedia Common)

For a migrant worker, "I h
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Anna at A Wondrous Bookshelf
The Madonnas of Echo Park is a collection of short stories by Mexican American writer Brando Skyhorse. Although I seldom review short stories on this blog, I couldn't pass on the opportunity to pay homage to such beautiful work of literature.

Having won both the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, this novel really lives up to its hype. Each chapter is a different story told in first person in a beautifully crafted prose highlighting the intersections and clashes of A
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Stacy
More like 3.5. Interconnected stories set in Los Angeles. The vivid descriptions of the world the characters live in held my attention but not always the stories. I heard this on audiobook so I feel that played a factor in my rating. I feel like this will be a re-read for me in print. However, Mr. Skyhorse is a storyteller. I look forward to his next novel.
Judy

Brief news flash: Both of my cataract surgeries are now complete. I can see everything without glasses! Well, except for small print close up in poorly lit places, for which I use those reading glasses you can buy at pharmacies. I am so happy!

Now onto my review. Except for a trip on the week of Christmas, I shall be posting regularly again. Thank you for your patience.

My hand-crafted, boutique, and very special Tiny Book Group is on a project to read books set in Los Angeles. All three of us are
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Luke Schwiebert
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book will surprise you. Not in its themes or its writing style (though the former are important and the latter is excellent), but in it's presentation: every single chapter is told by a different character. This isn't made obvious at first, so you may get thrown for a loop at the beginning of Chapter 2, but once you figure it out, it really works.

I've read some other reviews that say that Madonnas "isn't really a novel, more like a short story collection." I guess that's true on its face, s
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Mandee
Oct 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: checked-it-out
I'm really torn with how to rate this book.

The bookcover says The Madonnas of Echo Park A Novel, but in this case I think the A Novel add-on is subjective. It's really a collection of short stories at most, and in my opinion it's probably not even quite that. Each chapter is written from a different character's POV, but each chapter is not a full story, short or otherwise. Each character may or may not have some connection to another chapter's character, however slight it may be. I realize this
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Chris
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
I found this to be an interesting companion piece to Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, which I read earlier this year, but my opinion of this book may have suffered by the comparison. I do enjoy the concept of interrelated stories that create an overall novel-like effect and it has been used to memorable effect by Saroyan (The Human Comedy) and Steinbeck (Tortilla Flat and The Pastures of Heaven).

I will start out by saying that I enjoyed at least half of these stories very much. The Blossoms of Los Fe
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Daisy
Jun 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Daisy by: saw it at Book Soup
Shelves: la-hollywood
I'm ready to dance with you, Aurora. I hope you understand why I need to say that to you here, in this way: because a work of fiction is an excellent place for a confession. p. xx

A novel that feels like short stories or a collection tied together by recurring characters to shape it into a novel. In each chapter you meet a character who later is the centerpiece of another chapter. If you don't read this fast enough, you might forget who's who--or at least I did, with my shoddy memory. I had to pa
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Barbara
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-read
For me, this novel is an eye-opening read of the Mexican American community. It’s author, Brando Skyhorse writes in his author’s notes (which were in the beginning of the novel, which I LOVE), that he wrote this novel as a “forgive me” note to a twelve year old girl whom he disrespected in 6th grade. Beyond that, Skyhorse wanted to give voice to the Mexican American community who grew up in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles during the 1950’s to the present. All the stories are basically true, dr ...more
Robert Starner
This is a book that I will definitely need to revisit. I am not sure that it got my undivided attention, and this book respectfully commands and deserves it. The author presents a kaleidoscope of imagery and characters that populate the ethnic neighborhood of Echo Park buried in downtown L.A. Much like the movie Crash, Skyhorse weaves and interconnects the stories of many inhabitants of Echo Park through familial and non-familial relationships with one of the main events involving the driveby sh ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
Jackie says:

This book had me from the author's note, which begins, "This book was
written because of a twelve-year-old girl named Aurora Esperanza." It
seems that he, who was also 12 at the time, had said something terrible to her and then never saw her again, so was unable to apologize to her directly. He had to find a different way to apologize, and now, 25 years later, he has. In the form of this book. "I'm ready to dance with you, Aurora. This is my confession. I hope you understand why I need
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Constance
Mar 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
Gosh, I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't even finish it. The primary word that I keep thinking of to describe this book is "inartful." It is SO awfully and badly executed, in its voices, character descriptions, plot development, everything. It is also inconsistent and hard to follow! Did anyone edit this book?! Here's a one example of many: One chapter is written from the voice of an older Latina woman (another is uninterestingly written from the voice of a self-hating American-bo ...more
Elizabeth☮
Jul 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
this is a collection of vignettes of various residents of echo park - a neighborhood in los angeles.
the book deals with the complexities of growing up Mexican in America. skyhorse touches on topics such as immigration, gang violence, single motherhood and assimilation.

each chapter is an individual's story that is seemingly disconnected from the others, but all of the characters are inter-related, in the same way that humanity is all connected regardless of heritage.
Larry H
Echo Park, the Los Angeles neighborhood down the hill from Chavez Ravine, is the setting for Brando Skyhorse's interconnected story collection, The Madonnas of Echo Park. (I think Brando Skyhorse may be one of the coolest names I've ever heard for an author.)



The characters in Skyhorse's stories are Mexican-Americans of varying ages who are trying to fit in with or rebel against their culture and their neighborhood. Many of the characters are the types of people we pass by every day—cleaning wom
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Danielle
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Madonnas of Echo Park is a must read for anyone curious about an increasingly diverse U.S. society. Skyhorse skillfully brings readers into Echo Park, and offers a holistic perspective on the many challenges its population faces. He develops a plot line that reads almost like a movie - each character's chapter/story seems unique and more revealing than the ones before until, suddenly, one realizes that the current narrator is actually the previous narrator's mother and a later character-narr ...more
Toni
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I have been talking a lot about this book at work because it just excites me. One of the marketing blurbs about it that I read said that it will do for Mexican-Americans what Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which I LOVED) did for Dominican-Americans. What that means is that there isn't a lot of mainstream fiction that displays the lives of the various ethnic communities in this country. Especially of the non-white ones.

What makes this book special is the author's note at the b
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Loretta Gaffney
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kind of uneven, but lyrical writing and interesting descriptions of Echo Park (Los Angeles). Reminiscent of the House on Mango Street. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if I wasn't familiar with the neighborhood and L.A.
Dustin Hanvey
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A rich panorama of Los Angeles and its history. I recommend multiple reads to unpack all the intricate connections between its eight chapters/ stories.
Jonathan
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa-literature
This is a good book. Not sure if it’s really good or just good.

I’m not thrilled with the writing. Something about it just throws me. I think it’s the way he describes everything. It just feels disconnected or rough. I honestly don’t know what it is. There’s also his frequent use of cuss words. I mean, I get it, that’s how people talk. But I think this betrays one of the general guidlines of narrative: don’t tell me, show me. He seems to make too much of an effort to make the reader understand t
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Maureen
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book of the recent past. I loved every bit of it. His writing is mesmerizing...descriptive, sad, engrossing. Great character development and hook-in-mouth plot that made me not want to put it down. I loved the entertwining of stories.

This book is so precise on what I assume to be the immigrant experience in LA from all sides...everyone from the border jumper, to the children born here of immigrants, the ones that speak English and those that don't. The housekeepers, shop keepers, cri
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Liza Rosen
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
a beautiful and delicate story that really challenges you to think about and appreciate the complexities of other people's lives and communities
Jenny
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Pete's book club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ed
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
While I certainly enjoyed the book on its own merits, I found myself immediately comparing, mostly positively, vs. other novels... the coincidental (or magical) intersecting of lives recalled Let The Great World Spin... the authentic ethnic voice and edge was quite reminiscent of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao... and the nostalgia factor of the 1980s and a very particular place (also from a non-white perspective) made me think of Sag Harbor. While I know that's not terribly helpful if you ...more
Ted Guevara
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have officially read a rejuvenated John Updike in The Madonnas of Echo Park. I’ve long followed such fluency throughout my life and career, and now it protrudes its head again in an ethnically-bound novel. Though the book is divided in eight compartments (plus the pulse of the story which is “Author’s Note")—or maybe they’re apartments where the windows are jacaranda blossom-colored through the eyes of the deeply smitten reader—the links between them are expressively cool, subtle. The language ...more
Kim
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was selected as the book for all incoming freshmen at my university to read for this coming fall. I tend to really enjoy these types of nested and inter-connected stories, and Skyhorse does a really fine job of connecting characters in unexpected and interesting ways. It was a bit challenging to follow these connections at points, but worth it to get the full flow of the story. For me, this was the most enjoyable book we've read in this series of books for incoming freshmen, and it rai ...more
Amy
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse is a breathtaking novel, a connected set of short stories, which explores the predominately Mexican American neighborhood of Echo Park in East L.A. Each story relates the struggles of immigrants and first and second generation Mexican Americans and subtlety explores the themes of race, class, and assimilation. Skyhorse opens the world of gangs and drive-bys, day laborers and cleaning ladies, and in turn shows readers how the characters involved in the ...more
Elizabeth A
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This was my book club selection this month, and it certainly gave us lots to talk about.

The setting is Echo Park, a Los Angeles neighborhood, and the characters are Mexican-Americans of various ages and legal status who live there. The cover labels this book a novel, which I felt was misleading as it is an interconnected story collection. Each chapter is a story from a different person's point of view, and in my opinion you need to know that going in, otherwise it is a confusing read.

I thought t
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Kristi Bumpus
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
I actually couldn't finish this book. To start with, it wasn't the book I expected. I somehow missed the tiny "a novel" on the front cover and thought when I picked it up that it was nonfiction. Truthfully, it was neither nonfiction nor actually a novel. What got me was that something horrible seemed to happen in every single chapter. I'm sure, had I kept reading, some story of redemption might have emerged. But -- and this is completely about me, not the author -- I'm at a place in my life righ ...more
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Brando Skyhorse is the author of the memoir "Take This Man" to be published by Simon and Schuster on June 3rd, 2014.

Brando Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, received the 2011 Pen/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. He has been awarded fellowshi
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